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2016 MLB thread. Baseball is upon us! Royals are the champs - Page 668

post #20011 of 73404
Thread Starter 
Much bigger than that ostracize yourself from certain players, agents and schools. Amaro won't even man up and answer the questions himself.

I didn't realize Simmons' deal was only for $58 million, that's awesome for them.
post #20012 of 73404
Thread Starter 
Balfour's truck.

post #20013 of 73404
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Balfour's truck.


He thinks he's still fighting nature in Australia.
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post #20014 of 73404
Thread Starter 
laugh.gif someone in the comments said he's gonna run down V-Mart in that truck.
post #20015 of 73404
That explains a lot about his personality laugh.gif
post #20016 of 73404
LOS ANGELES -- Two men pleaded guilty Thursday to a 2011 beating at Dodger Stadium that left San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow brain damaged and disabled.

Defendant Marvin Norwood pleaded guilty to one count of assault likely to produce great bodily injury. Defendant Louie Sanchez, saying he kicked and punched Stow, pleaded guilty to one count of mayhem that disabled and disfigured the victim.

Judge George Lomeli excoriated a smirking Sanchez and handed him an eight-year state prison term, with some credit for time served. Norwood received a four-year sentence and credit for time served.

Stow, a 45-year-old paramedic from Santa Cruz who attended the 2011 Opening Day game in Los Angeles between the Dodgers and Giants, was beaten nearly to death in a parking lot after the game. He requires 24-hour-a-day care. The beating prompted public outrage and led to increased security at Dodgers games. A civil suit by Stow is pending against the Dodgers franchise and former owner Frank McCourt.

Sanchez and Norwood were arrested after a lengthy manhunt that briefly involved the arrest of an innocent man. The two acknowledged their involvement during a series of secretly recorded jailhouse conversations.

Witnesses testified about the parking lot confrontation, saying Stow was jumped from behind and his head crashed to the pavement.

Last spring, Stow returned home after two years in hospitals and rehabilitation centers. His family said he requires constant physical therapy and remains severely disabled.
post #20017 of 73404

Ninth Circuit court trial between San Jose and MLB has been expedited. Oral briefing will be conducted in March. Oral arguments likely in the summer. A decision will be rendered late this year.

What this means is that MLB's anti trust exemption is going to be tried in court THIS year. No more delay.

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post #20018 of 73404
Thread Starter 
a smirking Sanchez

******* scumbag. I hope the boys treat him right in prison.

At least there's some sort of justice here. Just such a sad story for Stow and his family.
post #20019 of 73404
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post

Much bigger than that ostracize yourself from certain players, agents and schools. Amaro won't even man up and answer the questions himself.


Amaro and the team are already feeling the heat for this from agents. One agent said, "As of today, Phillies are out. Phillies are not getting into any more of our households. We're shutting down all communications." 


And on the Stow case, they beat a guy up and make him brain dead and all they get is 8 years and 4 years. 

post #20020 of 73404
Originally Posted by Proshares View Post
a smirking Sanchez

******* scumbag. I hope the boys treat him right in prison.

At least there's some sort of justice here. Just such a sad story for Stow and his family.

Makes me so sad for humanity, I don't understand how people can be like this.

Hello darkness, my old friend - Kings fan

We are Tottenham, From the Lane...

USA Ain't Nothin' To Asterisk With 

My biography, as told by Grandtheftbike


Hello darkness, my old friend - Kings fan

We are Tottenham, From the Lane...

USA Ain't Nothin' To Asterisk With 

My biography, as told by Grandtheftbike

post #20021 of 73404
1 year 8 mil for Cruz.

C'mon billy, I know we could have offered that. mean.gif
post #20022 of 73404
And have him platoon with Reddick? I wouldn't want that, not for $8 million at least.
post #20023 of 73404
post #20024 of 73404
Thread Starter 
He's just not that good anymore. Especially in Oakland, $8 million is a lot for him I think. And it's not like he can be a one day substitute in the field, you'd be holding your breath every time someone hit it to RF laugh.gif let the O's make their panic moves.
post #20025 of 73404
I don't think he is great, but I still feel is a solid bat and for a one year deal, I would have taken a shot.

Hope you are right though. laugh.gif
post #20026 of 73404
A's should go for Encarnacion once the Blue Jay's get their collective heads out their ***** and realize they're not competing for anything yet again.
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post #20027 of 73404
We landed him in a trade a couple years ago right?
post #20028 of 73404
he turns down a 5 year 75 mill offer from SEA for that? laugh.gif what a moron
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PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #20029 of 73404
Originally Posted by bbllplaya23 View Post

We landed him in a trade a couple years ago right?

Off waivers, yeah.
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post #20030 of 73404
Originally Posted by ***a5in11 View Post

he turns down a 5 year 75 mill offer from SEA for that? laugh.gif what a moron

Wish I could find the quote, but Cruz has explicitly stated he doesnt like Seattle, and absolutely hates playing there. I wouldnt be upset if I was a Mariners fan at all.

Id be more upset that the Mariners offered him that in the first place.
post #20031 of 73404

Are we sure that the Mariners offered him a 5 year deal or any deal at all? Last thing I heard about them and Cruz was that they were worried about him playing in their ballpark, concerned about the affect PEDs had on him and they like Kendry Morales more. But Mariners fans should be happy he didn't accept a 5 year deal. Would you really be happy with Cruz playing in the OF for 5 years?

post #20032 of 73404
Trust me, I and 95% of all Mariners fans are happy as hell he won't be wearing a Mariners uniform
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Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
PSN: Aiinatural
Go Hawks, Mariners, Ducks
post #20033 of 73404

doubt a 5 yr deal was even on the matter how much you hate a park you are not gonna turn down a 5 yr deal to go somewhere else for 1 yr at his age/ped **** 

post #20034 of 73404
Originally Posted by Th3RealF0lkBlu3s View Post

Originally Posted by bbllplaya23 View Post

We landed him in a trade a couple years ago right?

Off waivers, yeah.

laugh.gif Claimed off Waivers, then non-tendered a couple weeks later and he resigned with the Blue Jays
post #20035 of 73404

Angels and Trout talking about a 6 year $150 mil contract. Thoughts?

post #20036 of 73404
Originally Posted by PhillyzPhan View Post

Angels and Trout talking about a 6 year $150 mil contract. Thoughts?

post #20037 of 73404
Great deal for the Angels. How old will he be after it ends? 27?
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post #20038 of 73404

He'd be 28 at the end. Angels trying to push for a 7th year.

post #20039 of 73404
****, if I'm Mike I'd give up some money and take a five year deal instead.
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post #20040 of 73404
Thread Starter 
Porcello the top breakout candidate.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Stop me if you've heard this one before: Rick Porcello is on the verge of having a big season this year. That's a statement that seemingly pops up every year, most notably last spring, when Porcello was doing his best to disprove the long-held theory that spring training stats don't matter by striking out 21 without walking a single batter.

Yet the anticipated breakout didn't quite happen, not when Porcello put up an ERA north of 4.30 for the fourth straight year and was the subject of trade rumors this offseason.

So what makes this year different? Here are three reasons:

1. He already did break out, mostly

A 4.32 ERA may not seem like the hallmark of a pitcher who just had a good year, but that's focusing on the wrong thing. ERA (over a full season, anyway) isn't quite as misleading of a stat as the completely useless pitcher win is, but it can get skewed badly based on a bad game or two. That happened to Porcello last April, when after not having started for 10 days, he allowed nine earned runs to the Angels in 2/3 of an inning. That sent his ERA all the way up to 11.08, and it took him until July to get that mark below 5.00 for good.

That's a whole lot of weeks with an ugly number next to his name on the television broadcasts, but it's also not particularly fair. Porcello allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his next eight starts; from the disaster against the Angels through the rest of the season, his ERA was a much more impressive 3.79 in 28 games. Looking at FIP (3.53) and xFIP (3.19) instead, we can see that Porcello's performance has been improving steadily for years, moving from below-average in 2010 and 2011 to considerably above-average last year.

Wondering just how impressive a 3.19 xFIP is? The three pitchers ahead of Porcello by that metric were Jose Fernandez, Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer; the three behind him were David Price, Hisashi Iwakuma and Madison Bumgarner. By that measure, Porcello has already "broken out," thanks in no small part to annual improvements in missing bats (his strikeout percentage has increased every year, from 12 percent in 2010 to 19.3 percent in 2013) while keeping his walk and homer rates steady as he threw his sinker less.

From that perspective, there's not a lot of room left for improvement, since those numbers are already excellent. But while the advanced metrics like him quite a bit, ranking highly in xFIP isn't exactly the same thing as keeping runs off the board in the real world, and of the 26 pitchers with an xFIP of 3.50 or lower, only one had an ERA higher than Porcello (Jeff Samardzija). Until that number drops, he won't be seen as being an upper echelon pitcher.

So how does he convert great peripherals into better run prevention? Fortunately for him, a big part of that has nothing to do with him at all.

2. The infield should help him out more ...

On that list of sub-3.50 xFIP pitchers, only A.J. Burnett had a higher ground-ball percentage than Porcello's 56.3, and Burnett played in front of a Pittsburgh defense that prided itself on converting ground balls into outs with the use of aggressive infield shifts.

Porcello certainly enjoyed the run support of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, but much less so their lackluster defense, particularly when Cabrera's late-season injuries rendered him all but unplayable with the glove. Among the 17 starters who suffered the highest BABIP, four were Tigers, thanks largely to the fact that Fielder, Cabrera and second baseman Omar Infante were all seen as negative influences by defensive runs saved. (Cabrera and Fielder each ranked as the worst at their positions, and other Tigers hurlers were spared a lot of the damage by the fact that they specialize in strikeouts.)

With Fielder, Infante and shortstop Jhonny Peralta all moving on, the 2014 Detroit infield won't return a single starter at the same position. New second baseman Ian Kinsler (30 DRS over the last three years) should be a better fielder than Infante (6), and although Peralta was better than advertised at short, young Jose Iglesias exists almost entirely because of his stellar glove. Rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos brings his own defensive questions at third, but it's inconceivable that he won't improve on Cabrera, who in turn is a better first baseman than Fielder.

All around, the new Tiger infield should eat up more grounders than last year's did, and while that helps every pitcher, it will especially benefit a ground ball artist such as Porcello.

3. ... and so should the bullpen, hopefully

One of the multiple issues with ERA is that it can rely heavily on the other members of the pitching staff. If a starter leaves with a shutout going but with the bases loaded, whether or not he ends up with multiple runs on his ledger -- and affecting his ERA -- or nothing but zeroes depends on how the reliever performs. Since the starter is out of the equation at that point, it makes ERA a less effective way to measure individual performance.

That was a particular issue for Porcello in 2013. Of the 157 pitchers in baseball who left at least 10 runners on base for their bullpens to clean up, only Colorado's Juan Nicasio (13) suffered more runs scored than Porcello's 12. On a percentage basis, that's 57.1 percent of Porcello's bequeathed runners coming around to hurt his ERA, seventh-most of those 157. If none of those runs had come in, suddenly his ERA is all the way down to 3.71.

That hurt him badly, but before we jump to conclusions and blame the Detroit relievers too heavily, it's important to note that Porcello's Tiger teammate Anibal Sanchez had the best bullpen support of anyone in baseball. Despite handing the ball to most of the same pitchers, of Sanchez' 13 bequeathed runners, not a single one came in. Overall, the Tiger bullpen allowed 28 percent of inherited runners to score, slightly better than the MLB average of 29 percent.

The expected improvement here is less about the fact that Joe Nathan is a nice addition and more about the fact that there's little year-to-year consistency in strand rates. Looking back to 2012, Porcello actually received outstanding support -- only two of his 24 bequeathed runners came home -- while Sanchez got killed by it, seeing 13 of his 21 runners come home. (Sanchez did spend part of that year in Miami before being traded.) A simple regression back to some kind of normalcy, as opposed to an extreme, ought to help Porcello's run prevention.

Though it seems as though he's been around forever, Porcello turned 25 in December, and one recent projection named him as the starter least likely to land on the disabled list. For years, Detroit has been waiting for him to take that next step, and it's easy to argue we already saw that last year. This is the year his ERA catches up, and Porcello starts getting talked about in a different light.

Cruz a good fit with Orioles.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Once the Orioles signed Ubaldo Jimenez -- forfeiting their first-round pick -- signing another free agent requiring compensation made a lot more sense, as the value of the next pick they'd have to give up is much lower. Nelson Cruz's one-year, $8 million deal reflects that cost but also the questions about his PED usage and his negative defensive value.

He's a solid fit for Baltimore, however, as the team had no real DH option on the roster, just several part-time players from whom they could have cobbled together a decent platoon. Cruz is better than any of those individual options, a destroyer of southpaws who hits right-handed pitching for enough power to keep him in the lineup every day, although spelling him against the best righties wouldn't be a bad strategy. He's a bad defensive outfielder, although the O's will need him there only on rare occasions and can always pull him for David Lough later in a close game. His addition makes Baltimore 1-2 wins better at a reasonable cost; I might have preferred Kendrys Morales, but not if the price was substantially higher.

Cruz’s experience also reveals one of the absurdities of the current system of tying certain free agents to draft-pick compensation. MLB is among the best entities in the world at crafting policies that create unintended consequences, and what this silly system has done is given teams that sign one major free agent in an offseason incentive to sign another. Once you've lost your first-round pick in a given draft, the cost to sign another Type A free agent is your next pick, which will be a second-round pick for most teams. Signing a third such free agent will cost you merely your third-round pick. That means teams that have the resources to sign the first such guy then have more incentive to sign the next. A policy that ostensibly exists to keep the low-revenue teams competitive (by giving them extra draft picks) actually makes them less competitive. It's as if baseball would just be better off severing free agency from the draft entirely.

Those incentives also make Stephen Drew more attractive to teams that have already lost a pick for signing a free agent, another reason I think the Yankees should sign him (although they apparently have less interest now than they did earlier this winter). Morales, the last major hitter among free agents, lost a major suitor in Baltimore and might have to return to Seattle, which won't lose any pick for re-signing him, with no teams both looking for a 1B/DH and willing to give up a pick for him right now.

The incongruity of Bonds' HOF exclusion.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Barry Bonds will work as an instructor for the San Francisco Giants, writes Alex Pavlovic, and in a roundabout way, this hiring demonstrates the complete incongruity of the Hall of Fame voting.

From Pavlovic’s story:

Barry Bonds is scheduled to return to the Giants from March 9-17 as a special instructor for the organization's young hitters, as first reported by this newspaper. Bonds has long wanted to take on a more active role with the organization, but the two sides have not been connected in an official capacity since 2007, Bonds' last major league season.

The years since have been filled with performance-enhancing drug allegations, a perjury trial and a felony conviction for obstruction of justice, but the Giants are not worried about Bonds being a distraction.

"He's part of what we'll do here," manager Bruce Bochy said. "He's going to be part of the group of instructors, like (Will) Clark, (J.T.) Snow or (Jeff) Kent. He's going to be like the other guys and help where he can.

"I don't have any concerns."

During an appearance at AT&T Park in 2012, Bonds told reporters that he had approached Giants CEO and President Larry Baer about working for the club in some form. The conversations have continued informally since then, and the Giants felt that the timing was finally right to bring back one of the best players of all time, albeit one with a complicated history.

"Collectively within the organization, we felt that given Barry's desire to continue to contribute to the Giants, we should be open-minded about giving him the same invite that we have given to other players in the past," Baer said Saturday.

As far as Major League Baseball is concerned, Bonds is a member in good standing; the Giants can hire him and use him as they see fit, and Bonds is free to work in any MLB job he can get. This is unlike Pete Rose, who is serving a lifetime suspension for betting on baseball. Rose would love to work for the Reds, and if you gave truth serum to the team's honchos, they would tell you they’d love to have him on board, given his overwhelming popularity with Cincinnati fans. But Rose is not permitted employment, having been exiled because his baseball crime is deemed by MLB to be significantly greater than that of Bonds or Mark McGwire or Ryan Braun or Melky Cabrera or Nelson Cruz or any other user of performance-enhancing drugs. Cruz was suspended for 50 games last summer and just got an $8 million contract, in fact.

As far as the Hall of Fame is concerned, Bonds is a member in good standing, having appeared on its ballot repeatedly; again, this is unlike Rose, who has never appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot.

The only group treating Bonds as an outcast now is the Baseball Writers’ Association of American, currently positioned as the steroid police of the industry, and there are no signs that the BBWAA will move out of its standing as the designers of history.

The Giants -- and by extension, Major League Baseball -- are treating Bonds as a star of his era, with his 762 homers, seven Most Valuable Player awards and career .444 on-base percentage. His records and feats are fully acknowledged by the Hall of Fame, because, as president Jeff Idelson has said rightly over and over, the Hall documents history -- good and bad.

The majority of the baseball writers regard Bonds very differently than how the rest of the institution of the sport does. In Bonds’ first year of eligibility, he received 36.2 percent of the vote from the body of writers, and in his second year, he received 34.7 percent.

School crossing guards could only pray for a higher degree of effectiveness.

The Hall of Fame already includes players who used performance-enhancing drugs, had police records, drank enough to be incapacitated in their jobs and openly cheated against rules on the books, and a former commissioner who worked diligently to keep the sport segregated.

But not Barry Bonds.


• The Phillies released a statement about their involvement with the NCAA’s investigation of two draftees who didn’t sign with them last year, and GM Ruben Amaro spoke some about it. From Matt Gelb’s piece:

The last-known instance of a major-league team reporting a violation to the NCAA, according to Baseball America, was in 1992, when the White Sox turned in A.J. Hinch. The Phillies, industry experts believe, could encounter blowback from prospective draftees, their coaches, and agents.

Amaro said he was aware of the incident when it was raised last November. When asked whether the decision to report Wetzler was cleared by the general manager himself, Amaro responded: "I was aware, that's all I can say."

Earlier in the week, Amaro referred all inquiries to assistant general manager Marti Wolever, who oversees the team's amateur draft. Wolever, Amaro said, will remain in that role. He was not available for comment.

It was unclear whether any team employees were punished for the incident.

• At one year for $8 million, Nelson Cruz is a bargain for the Orioles, and potentially bolsters their lineup this season. However, Justin Havens from ESPN Stats & Information sent this along, which, coupled with Cruz's dramatically diminished defensive metrics, suggests that he could be in the midst of significant decline:

Nelson Cruz vs. off-speed pitches
Last 4 Seasons

Season Slug. pct. Swing-and-miss pct. Ground ball pct.
2013 .344 42.4% 48.7%
2012 .401 35.2% 41.7%
2011 .491 33.2% 39.6%
2010 .512 30.1% 36.9%
Here’s the really hard part for Cruz: Because he turns 34 in July, Cruz is officially caught in the draft pick black hole. If he has a nice bounce-back season, the Orioles could give him a qualifying offer, and probably scare off multiyear offers from other teams. It seems unlikely Cruz will ever have a free and clear shot at free agency unless he has a bad season.

Here's what the Orioles’ lineup could look like this season:

RF Nick Markakis
3B Manny Machado
1B Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
DH Cruz
C Matt Wieters
SS J.J. Hardy
2B Ryan Flaherty
LF David Lough/Nolan Reimold

This is nothing but speculation, but if the Orioles had a chance to get Kendrys Morales for even less than Cruz -- say $5 million to $7 million -- that would make their lineup really, really interesting. It would give Baltimore’s roster and lineup tremendous depth, and given that they have double-dipped into the free-agent market, it would cost them only a third-round pick.

Cruz might not be a hit in the Orioles’ clubhouse, writes Peter Schmuck. From Schmuck’s piece:

Give [GM Dan] Duquette credit for predicting the offseason endgame and getting the players he needed under favorable terms, but the signing of a player with Cruz's baggage will not come without some risk to the Orioles' greatly improved image.

Remember, this is the same Orioles franchise that suffered the national disgrace of Rafael Palmeiro's positive steroid test in 2005 and the inclusion of several former members of the team in the 2007 Mitchell Report on the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs throughout baseball.

That fog of steroid suspicion eventually lifted and was replaced in the public consciousness over the past couple of years by the militantly anti-steroid positions of right fielder Nick Markakis and first baseman Chris Davis.

Markakis said on Saturday that his very public advocacy of tougher penalties for PED users will not change, but he also said he does not think Cruz will have any trouble fitting into the close-knit Orioles clubhouse.

"I wouldn't think so," Markakis said. "That's everyone's personal decision on how they feel about somebody. Everybody has got their own views and their own ways of looking at things. But ultimately when we are all under one roof, we are a team. So we are going to welcome him just like anyone else."

The fight for jobs

1. There is a twist in the fight for the Indians’ third base job this spring, writes Stephanie Storm.

2. With Cruz off the market, the Rangers’ DH situation has become more murky, according to Evan Grant.

Yes, they could sign Morales, and remember, they’ve already taken the most difficult hurdle in the draft-pick comp issue, surrendering their first-round pick to sign Shin-Soo Choo. But you’d have to figure that at some point this year, in the heat of the Texas summer, the Rangers want to use Prince Fielder at DH.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Yankees signed former Oakland and Boston reliever Andrew Bailey, who had surgery last summer.

2. Dustin Ackley is being moved to left field. It looks like the Mariners’ starting outfield will be Ackley, Michael Saunders and Corey Hart.

3. Justin Sellers was DFA’d.

Dings and dents

1. Matt Harvey said throwing 20 times Saturday felt awesome.

2. Jaime Garcia is hurting.

3. Jonny Venters took another step in his recovery.

4. Craig Gentry is out with a lower back issue.

Around the leagues

AL East

• The Yankees’ infield is now filled with players looking to overachieve, writes David Waldstein.

• Xander Bogaerts is on a fast track to stardom.

• Tony Clark talked about the CBA.

• Sustaining success is not an easy thing to do in a small market, such as the one the Rays play in.

• Grant Balfour is exactly where he wants to be.

• One pitch was a turning point in the life of a pitcher in the Rays’ organization.

• Adam Lind doesn’t want anyone to compare his beard to those of the Red Sox.

• Brett Cecil is getting more comfortable in the Toronto bullpen.

AL Central

• Some Detroit infielders are getting help from Omar Vizquel.

• The Tigers have a couple of candidates for the job of setup man.

• Bruce Chen brings consistency to the Royals.

• Kyle Zimmer is feeling the impact of the Royals’ cautious approach with him.

• The face of the Twins is changing, writes Jim Souhan.

• Vinnie Pestano is working his way to form with the Indians.

• Avisail Garcia has tremendous power potential, says Robin Ventura.

• The Twins’ new rotation has an easy act to follow.

AL West

• Cruz’s loss is the Rangers’ gain, writes Gil LeBreton.

• The Astros have a week of camp under their belts.

• Bo Porter says the team’s defensive drills need improvement.

• Yoenis Cespedes has put on weight.

• Tyler Skaggs is feeling good after throwing a BP session.

NL East

• For Bryce Harper and other players, finding the right weight is the toughest part, writes Adam Kilgore.

• Bobby Abreu earned a shot at a revival.

• The Marlins have gone through an extreme makeover.

NL Central

• Andrew McCutchen’s appeal continues to grow, writes Bob Cohn.

• The Pirates are still in search of a first baseman, writes Bill Brink. I’ll have more on the Pirates in Monday’s column.

• Love this: Mike Matheny wants the Cardinals’ pitchers to cut down on their strikeouts -- at the plate.

• Joey Votto has found a sweet spot of comfort.

NL West

• Seriously, it’s like somebody hovers over the Padres with a Kewpie doll and pins: Now Chase Headley is out with a calf injury.

• The Arizona pitchers are all ears when Dave Duncan talks, writes Nick Piecoro.

• Troy Tulowitzki’s career has reached a key midpoint.

East Carolina's Hoffman must regain form.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman came into the spring as the No. 2 prospect in this draft class, behind only NC State lefty Carlos Rodon and in the same tier as Texas prep righty Tyler Kolek. Hoffman made his second start of the season on Friday afternoon at the University of Virginia, showing big velocity but struggling with command and with his curveball.

Hoffman came out throwing gas, 94-96 mph in the first inning and holding 96 for several innings, eventually slipping to more 92-94 by the sixth and seventh. The pitch is straight, however, and Virginia hitters were on it all game -- a few cheated to get around on the pitch, but most of their hitters were at least able to make solid contact to foul it off even if they couldn't pull it. His changeup was an above-average offering on Friday, mostly 85-to-88 with one at 90 in the first inning, some too firm, others with that string-pulling illusion that you associate with a good straight change. He showed confidence in the pitch, doubling up on it and throwing it to right-handed hitters. His curveball was fringy, 77-80 mph early and 73-74 mph by the end of his outing, with spike-like break when he finished it -- maybe one of every four curveballs he threw -- with little feel for where it was going.

Usually a pitcher this athletic has better command than this, but Hoffman's command on Friday was below-average; his fastball and changeup were consistently up in the zone, and he didn't have great feel to locate any of the three pitches. He starts on the extreme first-base end of the rubber and stays over it well before taking a long stride toward the plate, with just a little hip rotation, pronating his elbow just before his front foot lands.

Hoffman was better than this last summer on the Cape, and if he regains that form he'll probably be one of the first three players off the board. He has some of the best arm strength of any starter in this draft, great athleticism and an aggressive streak on the mound that should help him in pro ball. However, if he has the same command and off-speed problems repeatedly this spring, it will create opportunities for other college starters like UNLV's Erik Fedde, Hartford's Sean Newcomb, and Vanderbilt's Tyler Beede to pass him on some teams' lists.

• Virginia closer Nick Howard came in for the ninth inning and sat 92-94 with a solid-average curveball at 77-81, with downer action but lacking tight rotation. The fastball was true and there's effort in his delivery, exacerbated by a slightly upright finish. Howard also takes a year and a half between pitches, which at best is a nuisance and at worst is an indicator that the pitcher doesn't want to throw the ball. (Seriously, you have two pitches, how long does it take to figure out which one to throw next?) He's online to the plate and throws strikes, so if he shows some 95-96 as he has in previous outings, he'll have a good shot to be a top two-round pick the way Corey Knebel was last year.

• Virginia's starter was sophomore Nate Kirby, who opted out of the 2012 draft entirely by declining to take the MLB-mandated drug test, thus preventing any team from drafting him. Kirby was 87-90 with some downhill plane but no other life to it, along with a loopy two-plane curveball at 78-79 and straight change in the low 80s. Like Hoffman, Kirby didn't show much command, but competed well despite not having great stuff. He was working on one fewer day of rest than normal as UVA shuffled its rotation from last weekend. I did like some aspects of his delivery, including good extension out over his front side, and he remains a name to remember for next year if his fastball picks up.

• UVA also has several hitters who should be top three round picks, and I'll profile them in another piece later this weekend.

Mets need to sign Stephen Drew.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Over the past few years, the New York Mets have made great strides in improving the franchise. Under the leadership of general manager Sandy Alderson, they’ve had a productive offseason and are cultivating a healthy crop of young pitching in their farm system.

However, despite all the moves Alderson has made this offseason, the Mets’ one glaring weakness remains at shortstop. The Mets have left no stone unturned in searching outside the organization for an upgrade at the position. Indeed, there was little available on both the free agent or trade markets -- just ask the St. Louis Cardinals, who had to turn to free agency, finally overpaying shortstop Jhonny Peralta with a four-year deal worth $53 million.

That said, one player who matches up perfectly with the Mets’ needs is free agent Stephen Drew. Unlike Peralta, Drew received a qualifying offer, which has crushed the demand for his services because he will cost the team that signs him a draft pick.

However, circumstances have aligned perfectly for the Mets, who should step up and sign Drew, offering a contract in the neighborhood of two years at $22 million (with no limited no-trade clause or opt-out clause). Alderson and Drew’s agent, Scott Boras, should put their egos aside and get this deal done. Let’s take a look at why.

Drew versus Tejada

Right now, the Mets’ starting shortstop (by default) is light-hitting Ruben Tejada. At the plate, he’s done little to prove he’s the Mets’ long-term solution, and his numbers bear that out, posting a weak 2013 slash line of .202/.259/.260.

Conversely, Drew finally is completely healthy and as such, his projected production is in.265/.330/.440 range, with 12-15 homers. Defensively, Drew is better than Tejada, with above-average range to both sides, a solid arm, and above-average ability to turn double plays on both ends.

Drew, who turns 31 in March, accumulated 3.1 WAR (wins above replacement) last season, nearly matching his career-high WAR of 3.7 in 2010 with the Arizona Diamondbacks. By comparison, Tejada registered minus-0.9 WAR last year. That’s a difference of approximately three to four wins. Likewise, if I was a scout, I would have easily estimated about the same differential between Drew and Tejada.

In other words, signing Drew could be the difference between the Mets winning 81 games to 85 games this season or perhaps even 82 and 86 wins, which is the difference between a contender and a noncontender in most seasons.

Alderson, however, isn’t sure the upgrade Drew provides is worth $11 million, and I respectfully disagree. It’s not just about the record, but how the wins aid in the continued development of their young pitchers. The Mets are focused this season on grooming pitchers Zack Wheeler, Jenrry Mejia, Jeurys Familia, Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero as they wait for Matt Harvey to recover from Tommy John surgery. Those extra wins go a long way for a pitcher’s confidence and maturity. That is the difference Drew can make.

Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Drew's defensive capabilities would go a long way in shoring up the Mets up the middle.
For the Mets to properly develop that winning environment, it’s important that they are strong up the middle on defense. Unfortunately, both their catcher and second baseman are limited defensively. Rookie Travis d’Arnaud projects to be an above-average catcher eventually, but he’s certainly not there now. Second baseman Daniel Murphy is a solid offensive player, but lacks the range and leather needed to be above average. That puts even more importance on the team’s defense at shortstop and center field.

In Juan Lagares and Chris Young, the Mets have two outfielders capable of above-average defense in center. With All-Star and Gold Glove third baseman David Wright, should the Mets add Drew at shortstop, the left side of their infield arguably becomes one of the best in the league and offers a security blanket for the Mets’ young pitchers.

Other benefits to signing Drew

The Mets spent a lot of money this offseason in trying to improve their team for the short-term, signing outfielders Curtis Granderson and Young as well as veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon. The moves strengthened their outfield depth and improved their starting pitching, power, speed, defense and clubhouse chemistry. Drew simply would cap off a terrific offseason for Alderson.

Because of the qualifying offer Drew received, his price has dropped significantly due to the draft-pick compensation attached, which means he could be had at a relative bargain price. And while signing Drew would potentially cost other teams a first-round draft pick, the Mets' first-rounder is protected and they already gave up their second-rounder to sign Granderson, which means Drew would only cost them a third-round selection.

He could be the asset that pushes the Mets into wild-card contention. If they don’t contend, at the very least Drew could give Alderson a trade piece he can flip for prospects in late July if the team falters.

There might be some free-agent shortstops available next offseason such as J.J. Hardy, Jed Lowrie and Asdrubal Cabrera of the Indians. But next year’s free agent asking prices will almost certainly be north of Peralta’s deal with the Cardinals, and Drew offers a cost-efficient option for the Mets. And while they have a pair of intriguing young shortstop prospects in Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini, both played in short-season ball last year and are (at best) a few years away.

Alderson and the Mets have done such a commendable job this offseason in solidifying weaknesses, it seems out of place they wouldn’t finish it with one last move.

Lessons from Bailey's 'breakout'.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Homer Bailey's shiny new six-year, $105 million extension is a clear sign that the Reds believe that his 2013 breakout was no fluke. While Bailey's career up to last year had been somewhat inconsistent, that kind of price requires Bailey to keep pitching at the level he did last year. And there are reasons to think that he may very well do that.

Perhaps most important in his breakout was a sharp uptick in his strikeout rate, which went from 19.2 percent in 2012 to 23.4 percent last year. In terms of ranking against his peers, he went from 27th in the National League two years ago to eighth last year, as even just a few points of strikeout rate can make a big difference. And strikeout rate is the kind of metric that seems somewhat impervious to fluke seasons.

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You can either get guys to swing and miss or you can't, and we just don't see too many Brady Anderson-type seasons when it comes to pitcher's strikeout rates. But how much of a strikeout rate spike can we really expect to carry over from one season to the next?

Bailey isn't the only pitcher this question is relevant for, after all. The Orioles are hoping that Ubaldo Jimenez's 25 percent strikeout rate in 2013 is far more predictive than the 18 percent strikeout rate he posted in 2012, and the Tigers chose to keep Rick Porcello over Doug Fister partly due to Porcello's jump from a 13.7 percent strikeout rate to 19.3 percent last year. The Indians are trying to figure out whether to sign Justin Masterson to a long-term deal, and a large part of the question will come down to whether they believe in Masterson's 2012 (17.6 percent) or his 2013 (24.3) strikeout rate.

So, let's look at other recent spikers, and see how well they did after posting big strikeout rate gains from one season to the next. First, the top five starters in strikeout percent increase from 2010 to 2011:

Strikeout surge
Pitchers who saw a big jump in strikeout rate from 2010 to 2011.

Years Anibal Sanchez Cliff Lee Doug Fister Zack Greinke Matt Garza
2011 19% 22% 13% 20% 18%
2012 24% 26% 17% 28% 24%
2013 20% 24% 20% 23% 22%
Fister is the only guy in this cohort whose improvement carried over entirely, as the other four all moved back to about halfway between their 2010 and 2011 rates. Even Zack Greinke, who had a staggering 8 percent improvement, moved back closer to his prior year level. And while guys like Greinke and Cliff Lee were able to remain elite with a "lower" strikeout rate, remember that they were starting at a higher baseline strikeout rate and have impeccable command on which to fall back.

It is also important to note that regression toward the mean wasn't regression all the way back to the prior mean; however, the new strikeout rate did move players to a higher level than they had been at previously, but not as high as they were in their big breakout year.

Now, what about guys whose strikeouts jumped from 2011 to 2012?

Strikeout surge 2.0
Pitchers who saw a big jump in strikeout rate from 2012 to 2013.

Years R.A. Dickey Max Scherzer Ivan Nova Edwin Jackson Paul Maholm
2011 15% 21% 14% 17% 14%
2012 25% 29% 21% 21% 18%
2013 19% 29% 20% 17% 16%
Two more encouraging examples here, as both Max Scherzer and Ivan Nova retained almost all of their strikeout gains from the prior year. On the other hand, R.A. Dickey and Edwin Jackson regressed significantly, and they are the real cautionary tales here. Dickey won a Cy Young award a nice contract off of his strikeout rate boost, and Jackson scored a mega-deal from the Cubs.

In the past couple of years, there have been three examples of pitchers whose strikeout rates have not moved back toward prior levels after a big jump (Fister, Scherzer and Nova). It is possible to make a big jump forward in strikeout rate and keep those gains into the future, but it should be noted that that is not the norm, and most pitchers will see their strikeout rates move back toward something closer to their prior levels.

As an additional reference, here are the projected strikeout rates for the 2013 spikers, according to Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projections, which account for multiple years of data:

Ubaldo Jimenez: 26 percent
Homer Bailey: 20 percent
Justin Masterson: 21 percent
Rick Porcello: 17 percent

Because Jimenez has a track record of striking out a fair share of batters earlier in his career, ZiPS sees him sustaining last year's bump and continuing to miss a lot of bats in the future. For Bailey, Masterson, and Porcello, the system expects each to move back toward their prior levels, though each is projected to have higher strikeout rates than they did in 2012.

While it can be tempting to look at guys coming off of a breakout year and ignore what came before it, history suggests that we almost always want to remember what the player was before the breakout, and temper our expectations accordingly. When it comes to missing bats, it's usually a case of those who can and those who can't, so surprising jumps should be greeted with skepticism.

Stop calling Derek Jeter 'overrated'.
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
TAMPA -- Derek Jeter didn't want to call the event that happened last Wednesday a press conference, and tried encouraging teammates who had gathered in the room to leave and go about their business. Smartly, no one took him up on his offer, understanding the risk of winding up on the back page of a New York tabloid for actually walking out of the room as Jeter discussed his impending retirement.

Because the players seem to get it, just as many front-office executives get it: Jeter is an all-time great player.

He has been the most publicized and exposed player in the sport during his career, as the shortstop of New York's most storied franchise -- and, in turn, he has been placed under greater scrutiny, to the degree that any Tweet or column about Jeter is inevitably batted back at you, attached to a word: overrated.

A chorus has been in refrain for a decade now, and was heard again in the days after he Facebooked his plans. Jeter's defense is beyond terrible, they say; he doesn't hit enough home runs, they say; his postseason numbers are merely a product of the money monster he plays for and the era he plays in, with multiple layers of October games.

But is Jeter really overrated?

Let's start out with the simple numbers: Of all the players who participated in MLB games, ever, only eight have more hits than Jeter's 3,316. If Jeter has a season of 104 or more hits, only five players in history will have more hits: Pete Rose, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and Tris Speaker.

So ... that's pretty good.

You can try to diminish that by throwing the word compiler at him, but here's the thing: If Jeter gets his 104-plus hits, this will mean that nobody will have compiled like him since Rose. That's more hits than any player over the last 30 years or so.

And Jeter has gotten almost all of those hits as a shortstop, which means that for almost two full decades, the Yankees have had one of the best offensive players at a position where premium production is most valued. There are about 29 other teams that would sign up for that.

Jeter has scored 1,876 runs, and if he has a season of 75 runs, he will finish his career ranked eighth all-time in the category. The only players with more than 1,950? Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Pete Rose and Willie Mays. Those are seven players who generated just about all of their offensive production as outfielders, plus Rose, who played 1,327 games in the outfield and another 939 at first base.

So ... that's pretty good.

It's hard to argue that a career shortstop scoring more runs than everybody except that group of immortals is overrated.

But let's continue and get this out of the way: He has never been among the game's best defensive shortstops, despite his five Gold Gloves. Justin Havens of ESPN Stats and Info sent along this number for 1995-2013, the span of Jeter's career:

Defensive WAR

1. Jack Wilson (20.7)
2. Rafael Furcal (14.3)
3. Jimmy Rollins (12.9)
4. Mike Bordick (12.glasses.gif
5. J.J. Hardy (12.5)
6. Troy Tulowitzki (11.9)
7. Royce Clayton (11.6)
8. Alex Gonzalez (10.4)
9. Rey Ordonez (10.1)

Derek Jeter -- dead last at minus-9.2

But when you weigh how good he was offensively ... well, the scales are tipped pretty heavily in his direction in the 19 years he has played:

WAR among shortstops with at least 3,000 plate appearances in that time

1. Derek Jeter 71.5
2. Jimmy Rollins 42.0
3. Rafael Furcal 39.1
4. Jose Reyes 33.2
5. Troy Tulowitzki 32.3

Jeter has almost 1,000 more hits in this timeframe than any other shortstop (Edgar Renteria, who began his career at just about the same time as Jeter, finished with 2,327 hits). Jeter has more than 600 more runs than any other shortstop in his era (Rollins is second, with 1,247). Alex Rodriguez has the most home runs for shortstops in this time, with 344; Jeter is second, with 256, and Jeter has 57 more homers than the rest of the field (Rollins, 199).

About the postseason: I wrote here recently that I never believed that Jeter raised his game in the playoffs and World Series, a skill widely attached to him. Rather, what was remarkable about him is that he wasn't swallowed by the anxiety that overwhelms a lot of players, and he wasn't diminished by the postseason pressure. He has basically been the same player in the postseason that he was during the regular season -- an OPS of .828 in the regular season, .838 in the playoffs and World Series.

The League Championship Series began in 1969, and the wild card was introduced in 1995. No matter what timeline you wish to apply, Jeter's totals in the postseason far surpass any other player of his time, including other Yankees. He has 200 hits in the World Series and postseason, 72 more than the player in second place, Bernie Williams. He has scored 111 runs in the World Series and playoffs, 28 more than Williams. He has 302 total bases in the postseason.

It's true that he's been one part of great teams. But at some point, doesn't he get just a little credit for the fact that the Yankees missed the playoffs only twice during his 19 seasons? Day after day after day, year after year after year, the Yankees have fielded one of the best overall shortstops in baseball. In the name of Jesus Montero, doesn't he get some credit for taking care of himself, for playing through injuries, for being in the lineup and producing at a high level?

If you are still in the camp bleating "overrated," well, forget the numbers or any argument I make. Executives and scouts who work for other teams have revered Jeter, seeing him through the prism of the big picture: The consistent production, the reliability, the predictability, the respectability, in how he plays and carries himself.

I e-mailed rival evaluators -- some GMs, assistant GMs, scouts -- and asked for their assessment of Jeter's career, and the response was just about unanimous, even though they were granted anonymity for the sake of complete honesty. Here are some of the responses:

High-ranking executive

"Jeter is the model for every superstar. If you asked every player, manager and GM who they would want their son to emulate, I'm certain Jeter would be in everyone's top five. People who criticize him need to step back from the painting to get the right view. The entire body of work is beyond reproach and will be sorely missed."

Long-time scout

"One of my favorite players and without a doubt the opposing player I respect the most both on the field and in the dugout. The passion to win is always so genuine. His pulse never changes, regardless of the situation. And even if his range has declined at short, he's been reliable enough on both sides of the ball at a premium position to make all the complaints about his range factor irrelevant. The guy will be 40 this year; health issues aside, what club wouldn't want him near the top of their lineup even now?

"He's clearly one of the greatest players of all time, handling a premium position and performing at a well above-average level as consistently as anyone could have asked for or expected, regular season and postseason, in the largest media market and under the most scrutiny. His passion for the game, his team, and the pursuit of victory make him the consummate leader, regardless of how often he takes young players out to dinner or shares a cab after the game.

"The guy has been a joy to watch. Even when he finds a way to beat your club, you can't help but still acknowledge that grudging respect for him."

Long-time AL evaluator

"Jeter has personified toughness, class, dignity and grace in every aspect of his career. He proved to be one of the most durable shortstops in the history of the game indisputably. His critics will sensationalize his negative defensive metrics, while not understanding the importance and degree of difficulty of playing the shortstop position successfully for almost two decades.

"Plus, in his record number of playoff games participated, I can't recall him ever making a crucial physical or mental error. He produced in the playoffs and regular season at a Hall of Fame clip offensively. His damage wasn't Ruthian, but it was always consistent at a high level and close to remarkable for someone exclusively at the shortstop position. He's been able to succeed on Broadway on and off the field. In the most intense and scrutinized media market in the world. A career that will never be duplicated."

NL evaluator

"Jeter was an impact player, even though he never totally impacted the game offensively or defensively. He was a really good player who would always make the tough play or always get the big hit. Did he rate the highest in wOBA or DRS? No, but he found a way to impact every game and to be the most important player on the field even when he didn't do anything.

Jeter was the nerve center of the Yankee dynasty of the late 1990s and early 2000s, and he was one of the best shortstops of the 20th and 21st centuries."

AL evaluator

"When I think of Jeter I mainly think of reliability. You know what you are going to get every day, mentally and -- up until the last couple of years -- physically. Very few mistakes along with consistent play. Same guy no matter what the situation, World Series or a blowout game, you got the same thing out of him."

For the readers: What do you think Jeter's place in the game is? Do you view him as overrated?

Around the league

• Mike Trout is in the midst of negotiations, and as reports drifted out Sunday that the Angels are talking about a $150-million type of deal, some agents not involved in the negotiations privately wondered: Why not more?

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The strategy of taking a six- or seven-year deal now is conventional and sound thinking, given that Trout could lock in a massive payday now and become a free agent in his late 20s.

But the agents not involved in the talks say that Trout is such a transcendent player, with his talent providing such overwhelming leverage, that conventional thinking doesn't have to apply -- as it did not at the time Alex Rodriguez signed his 10-year, $252 million deal before the 2001 season. At that time, there had been no player quite like Rodriguez at that age, and now the same could be said for Trout, whose first two seasons in the big leagues, at age 20 and 21, are unprecedented.

The agents believe that once Trout hits arbitration a year from now and he makes his first bit of big money -- and he would undoubtedly get a record-setting arbitration award -- the pressure on the Angels to work out a deal for heretofore unseen numbers would be staggering. So it behooves Trout -- who execs almost unanimously view as the best player in the game -- to ask for an A-Rod type deal now, because he knows the Angels will lose their leverage in a year.

But let's not forget: $150 million guaranteed is a crazy pile of money. Trout won't let the contract talks distract him, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

• There were no fans watching a back field at the Yankees' complex Sunday morning, when some Yankees coaches and Mark Teixeira gave Kelly Johnson a tutorial on playing first base.

Check that. It was Teixeira who was doing just about all the teaching, with first base coach Mick Kelleher and others chiming in. Teixeira is extremely knowledgeable about the position and precise, and Johnson has played a total of three games at first base, and given that both are right-handed, Teixeira is able to speak directly to footwork Johnson requires.

Teixeira demonstrated to Johnson that as he waits for throws from other parts of the infield, he likes both of his heels touching the bag, "so I know where the base is."

Standing near second base, Kelleher started using a fungo bat to smash hard grounders at Teixeira, simulating bad throws to first, with the ball skipping and bouncing and short-hopping. Teixeira reflexively positioned his feet with each one, reading them deftly, back-handing the ball smoothly on some.

Johnson took his turn and dropped the first ball hit to him. He seemed to be reading the hops a little later than Teixeira had -- naturally, given their relative experience at his position -- and when balls went to his right, Johnson began stepping back across the foul line. Teixeira coaxed him to field the ball on the fair side of the foul line, to keep himself out of the way of baserunners coming down the line.

Teixeira called out to Kelleher: "A little more choppiness -- a little more topspin."

Kelleher began mashing the top half of the baseball, and still Teixeira fielded almost everything cleanly. He stopped for a moment to show Johnson that by using his stride toward the ball, he could adjust his reach to the ball to catch the hop in an optimal position.

Kelleher interrupted for a moment. "Tex, tell him about tracking the ball with your eyes. You're the best at that."

Teixeira crouched to show Johnson that as the ball travels toward the base, he lowers his head so that it's almost on the same plane as his glove. This way, he can be in a better position to see the ball into the glove than he would be if he was more upright, with his head well above his mitt.

Teixeira and Johnson kept taking turns, until Kelleher said, "Last round."

Johnson looked more comfortable, more fluid toward the end, incorporating some of what Teixeira had told him, striding toward the ball as it skipped toward him. On that final round, Johnson fielded everything Kelleher hit at him, finishing a small bit of work in one corner of spring training.

• The Pirates are looking for better production out of their first baseman, and at the very least, Gaby Sanchez could be part of a platoon, after hitting .333/.448/.539 against left-handers last year. In the Pirates' world, the perfect solution would probably be the emergence of Andrew Lambo, a 25-year-old left-handed hitter. He had a .933 OPS in Triple-A last season, with 18 homers in 254 at-bats, and he could share time at first base with Sanchez.

The Pirates looked around for help at first in the winter, negotiating with James Loney and investigating the asking prices of Ike Davis, Mike Carp, among others, and finding them to be too high for comfort. Within that vacuum, Lambo will get a spring training look, at the very least.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The Yankees signed Brett Gardner to a four-year, $52 million deal, based on a comparison of Gardner to Michael Bourn, who signed a four-year, $48 million deal with Cleveland a year ago.

Bourn was 31 when he signed, coming off a year in which he had a .739 OPS and 42 stolen bases, while ranking among the better center fielders in baseball. Gardner will be 31 in 2015, when his new deal kicks in, and he's coming off a season in which he had a .759 OPS and 24 steals, and is regarded as one of the best left fielders in the majors.

Like Bourn, Gardner has a reputation for being an excellent teammate, and willing to do anything to help. The extension makes dollars and sense, writes Ken Davidoff.

2. The Nats gave Danny Espinosa a raise.

3. Ronald Belisario is having visa issues, and this may be an issue for the White Sox.

4. With Chase Headley down, Bud Black is going to experiment at third base.

Dings and dents

1. Jhoulys Chacin was shut down, writes Troy Renck.

2. Cole Hamels remains on track for a bullpen session.

3. Ike Davis acknowledged that he hid an injury from the Mets last season, writes Mike Puma.

4. Clay Buchholz is out to prove he can go the distance.

5. Matt Harrison's back issue, he believes, stems from a switch of mattresses, writes Evan Grant.

The fight for jobs

1. Daisuke Matsuzaka is in the hunt for the No. 5 spot in the Mets' rotation, writes Tim Rohan.

2. Mike Carp is getting some reps in at third base, in an effort to get some at-bats.

3. The Cardinals' Kevin Siegrist would love to start, writes Rick Hummel.

NL West

• Addison Reed is ready to deliver some late relief.

• Henry Schulman guesses what the Giants' rotation will look like.

• Jamey Wright is more relaxed in the Dodgers' camp.

NL Central

• Ryan Braun is adjusting to right field.

• Billy Hamilton brings a lot of possibility, writes Jerry Crasnick. Manager Bryan Price plans to put the Reds in motion, writes Hal McCoy.

• Todd Frazier seeks a bounce-back season.

• Jeff Locke is determined to put a rocky finish to last season behind him.

• Change is constant in the St. Louis bullpen.

NL East

• The Phillies are hoping for a bounce-back season from Ben Revere, writes Bob Brookover.

• Andrelton Simmons is an artist, as David O'Brien writes.

• arlins prospect Colby Suggs could make history.

AL West

• Shin-Soo Choo has introduced teammates to some relatively new technology.

• Carlos Correa showed something.

• Dustin Ackley is working on his mindset, writes Larry Stone.

• The Mariners have a good one in Kyle Seager.

• Bob Melvin is on Twitter.

AL Central

• Yan Gomes hopes to spread baseball to his homeland of Brazil, writes Tyler Kepner.

• The Royals need Lorenzo Cain on the field.

• Jason Vargas is throwing his curve more, and his cutter ... well, almost not at all.

• Trevor Bauer will get the start in the Indians' first exhibition.

• Cody Allen is taking the bullpen situation in stride, writes Stephanie Storm.

• Avisail Garcia is ready for the next step with the White Sox.

• One little chat changed Glen Perkins's future in his home state, writes Jim Souhan.

AL East

• Ricky Romero is smiling again, writes Ken Fidlin.

• Matt Moore had encouraging bullpen results.

• Hiroki Kuroda is learning Yankees-speak.

• Chris Davis is excited about the Orioles' acquisition of Nelson Cruz. The results of Cruz's physical will be announced today.

• Xander Bogaerts is close to a sure thing, writes Dan Shaughnessy.

Phillies hurt long term by informing NCAA.
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LAKELAND, Fla. -- For the third consecutive day, the Philadelphia Phillies did not comment on the decision to inform the NCAA that the college juniors they drafted in the fifth and sixth rounds last summer -- Oregon State pitcher Ben Wetzler and Washington State outfielder Ben Monda -- might have violated rules regarding agent contact.

Monda was cleared by the NCAA weeks ago, and, on Friday evening, the NCAA announced that Wetzler will become eligible to play again on March 2 after completing a suspension.

As time passes and the Phillies’ silence continues, the impression hardens within the industry -- particularly among agents and college coaches -- that the team acted out of vindictiveness, because neither Wetzler nor Monda accepted their offer. That will not have a chance to change unless the Phillies explain their side of the story. Was it one person in the scouting department who did this? Was it someone higher in the food chain? Why did the Phillies wait until six months after the June draft to go to the NCAA, if this was a matter of principle?

In the past couple days, some officials with other teams have acknowledged privately -- and candidly -- that they have thought in the past about doing what the Phillies seemingly did, out of anger or frustration over what they perceived to be a lack of integrity in an agent or a player. But in the end, they chose not to, understanding that this was a win-the-battle, lose-the-war type of situation involving a very young draftee. In the big picture, settling a score with a particular agent or player would not have served their organization.

So they are left to grumble to colleagues about the flawed system. The first domino that causes the angst, undoubtedly, is the silly NCAA rule that prevents the player from using an agent to negotiate directly with a team. The regulation is simply impractical in helping college kids deal with a negotiation with a private company, which is why just about everybody within the industry has looked past transgressions for decades for the sake of making deals. Over the past couple days, agents have told stories about directly negotiating with teams -- including the Phillies -- on behalf of college and high school players.

Club officials are saturated with stories about agent deception, bait-and-switch tactics and misrepresentation of intentions, particularly among players taken early in the draft. On the flip side, agents collect anecdotes of teams cornering teenagers, with last-minute medical concerns but eager to sign, in an effort to diminish signing bonuses. Players taken in later rounds remember being called by teams during the draft and being asked to make immediate decisions about signing bonuses while having little or no understanding of the process.

All of it has fueled cynicism within those involved with the draft annually.

But it’s worth taking a step back and remembering what might have happened here between the Phillies and Wetzler and what a mismatch it really was.

The Phillies are a billion-dollar business that’s been in existence more than 100 years and is armed with officials and scouts who’ve been in professional baseball for decades. Wetzler -- the unsigned fifth-round pick from Oregon State who is under investigation -- is going through this process for the first time. He is 21 years old; when the Phillies played in the World Series in 1993, he was 2 years old.

He’s not a star prospect. He was chosen in the 15th round by the Cleveland Indians a few years back and opted instead for Oregon State. Under the new slotting system negotiated in the collective bargaining agreement, players taken after the first couple of rounds have little to no negotiating room, and the slot allotment for the Phillies’ pick in the fifth round was $315,200. In the end, after taxes and fees, Wetzler’s bonus takeaway would’ve been probably for something in the range of $170,000.

[+] Enlarge
AP Photos/Christopher Szagola
GM Ruben Amaro Jr. and the Phillies have been accused of turning in unsigned draft picks to the NCAA.
It’s a lot of money but hardly life-changing. Nobody will ever know exactly what was said by Wetzler to the Phillies in the hours leading up to his selection, but with some reflection, it’s really not that hard to see why he chose to return to college for his senior year. Wetzler has a chance to be drafted again and to get a signing bonus close to what the Phillies offered him, and he could get more if he improves his performance and draft placement. He’ll also get another year of college and move one step closer to his degree.

But right now, he is ineligible to pitch following the Phillies’ decision to forward an accusation to the NCAA. In Philadelphia’s world, the dollars that Wetzler turned down are roughly equivalent to what they pay Ryan Howard for three days of work.

Without Aaron Fitt’s reporting in Baseball America, the Phillies stood to lose nothing in going after Wetzler and Monda. The Phillies could quietly forward their allegations from the darkness, and, if they were right, then the college careers of the two players who declined to take their offers could end. If they were wrong, well, the Phillies wouldn’t lose anything -- because there’s no penalty in this situation for snitches being wrong -- while Wetzler and Monda lose either way; they have been left to fight for what remained of their college careers. The Phillies get compensation picks this year because Wetzler and Monda will be in the 2014 draft.

On its face -- and that’s all we’re left with, given the Phillies’ silence -- it’s breathtakingly abhorrent. This is a powerful company targeting college kids because they declined to work for it within an industry protected through an illogical antitrust exemption.

But because of Fitt’s reporting, the Phillies now also stand to lose; as former commissioner Fay Vincent likes to say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Agents are livid, and some say privately that they will advise their clients to not cooperate with Philadelphia before the draft in matters such as handing over medical information, questionnaires, etc. College coaches can greatly restrict a particular team’s access to players by declining to make them available for pre-draft conversations; some Phillies scouts might run into walls of dissent.

Some current major leaguers are appalled, recalling how overwhelming the draft process was for them and how little they really knew. Some who spoke about the situation Friday said they think the Phillies’ role in the NCAA investigation will be perceived as a threat by players, as in: If you don’t take our offer, we’re going to the NCAA and make your life miserable.

"Everybody [in the media] should be talking about what happened with this," said one All-Star.

As the draft nears, the practical impact of any kind of embargo aimed at the Phillies will be inevitably tempered, because, as one veteran agent noted, "In the end, what’s important to the kids is being drafted, and the funny thing about this is the Phillies have always paid." The Phillies will draft players in June; the players will sign their contracts.

But unless the Phillies provide information and comment that alters perception, this episode will continue to tarnish the reputation of a respected organization that is led by the widely revered Dave Montgomery, the club’s chief executive officer.

Even if somebody doesn’t answer questions publicly about this, somebody should be answering questions internally about what appears to be a callous abuse of power.

• Wetzler spoke to reporters a few weeks ago about the upcoming season.

Around the league

• Sandy Koufax is fine after being hit by a line drive, and that’s a big relief.

• Jesus Montero is 40 pounds overweight, and Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is really upset, as Ryan Divish writes. Montero's career is at a crossroads.

• Yasiel Puig gained 26 pounds during the offseason, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are paying attention, Don Mattingly says.

• The Texas Rangers are excited that Russell Wilson will attend spring training, writes Evan Grant.

• The Atlanta Braves signed Andrelton Simmons on Thursday, and it’s worth noting the leaderboard from 2013 in Bill James’s Total Runs, which combines production offensively and defensively. Simmons is generally considered to be the best defender in the majors:

Bill James 2013 Total Runs Leaderboard

1. Mike Trout -- 160

2. Carlos Gomez -- 155

3. Andrew McCutchen -- 155

4. Matt Carpenter -- 153

5. Paul Goldschmidt -- 151

6. Robinson Cano -- 146

7. Andrelton Simmons -- 144

8. Miguel Cabrera -- 143

Simmons is the second-youngest player on that list behind Trout and was much better in the second half of 2013 (which was his first full season in the majors) than the first half.

Marty Callinan of ESPN Stats & Info sent these along, as well:

"Andrelton Simmons proved to be one of the most valuable players in the National League during his first full season. He finished fifth among regular shortstops with 17 home runs and fourth among all NL players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), fueled by superlative defense. Simmons amassed 41 Defensive Runs Saved in his Gold Glove 2013 season, tied for the most in a single season since the metric began in 2003."

Offense is still a big question mark for the young shortstop. Simmons batted first or second in 78 percent of his plate appearances through the end of July last season with an on-base percentage of .277. He was dropped loewr in the order for most of August and September.

Simmons’ 2013 numbers suggest he should stick there until he can improve offensively. Simmons saw a lot of pitches in the strike zone and avoided strikeouts but could not do much with what he was given.

• The Orioles continue to pursue Ervin Santana and Kendrys Morales, writes Eduardo Encina and Dan Connolly.

• Charlie Moynihan, one of our producers here at ESPN, was at Milwaukee Brewers camp the other day and sent this along:

"Ryan Braun can’t be happy with the schedule-maker. How is this for poetic justice? The Brewers’ first regular season road game is at Fenway Park. Red Sox fans, long known for expressing their displeasure with visiting players in a 'creative' and loud manner, will surely heckle Milwaukee’s right fielder all game. It is also the Red Sox home opener. With the World Series flag also being raised, the raucous atmosphere will be at a fever pitch.

"Today, Braun had this to say: 'I think I'm pretty strong mentally and emotionally. I'm able to deal with adversity and challenges. As a competitor, I enjoy the challenge of going into an opposing team's ballpark and dealing with that hostile environment. I try to use that as fuel and motivation. It was something that helped me get through a challenging time and helped motivate me [in 2012].'

"Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke expects fans to be boisterous as well. 'Great players get booed,' he said. 'We went to Chicago, and, every time there, Ryan was booed. It's just going to be a little more often for him now.'

“Cue Red Sox Nation. If Braun is seeking advice, he merely needs to place a phone call to Barry Bonds. Bonds was routinely vilified on the road during his chase of Hank Aaron’s home run record in 2007. Who can forget when the Padres fan threw a syringe at him during the season opener the year before?”

• Nick Castellanos is settling in at third base with the Detroit Tigers, with his future finally much clearer in the aftermath of the Prince Fielder trade. Infield coach Omar Vizquel has been pleased with his early defensive work this spring.

• The top ring of the Metrodome will be blown up Sunday.

Moves, deals and decisions

1. The New York Mets are closer to their $250 million refinancing.

2. The Toronto Blue Jays claimed a pitcher off waivers.

3. The Kansas City Royals agreed to terms with a bunch of guys.

Dings and dents

1. Braun hopes to avoid recurrence of his thumb issue.

2. Bobby Parnell has a quad issue, writes Kristie Ackert.

3. It’s unlikely that Matt Kemp will play in Australia.

4. Matt Harrison has a sore back, which is potentially a big, big problem.

5. Justin Verlander threw 60 pitches.

6. Bruce Rondon was sent home with an illness.

The fight for jobs

1. Chris Capuano is likely to start in the bullpen, says John Farrell.

2. Brandon Guyer is eyeing a roster spot with the Rays.

3. The Braves are undecided about what to do for a second reliever.

AL East

• Larry Lucchino and Randy Levine fired verbal volleys at each other.

• Derek Jeter and the New York Yankees have reason for early optimism, writes Bob Klapisch.

• CC Sabathia will make do with the velocity he has.

• Koji Uehara wrote a book.

• Jose Bautista wants to return to form.

AL Central

• Scott Diamond is ready to hang loose, writes Mike Berardino.

• Adam Dunn wants to ease the transition for Jose Abreu.

• Chris Sale is not one to get complacent.

• Trevor Bauer has altered the crow hop.

• Jason Giambi is talking World Series for the Indians.

AL West

• A Houston Astros prospect is sticking by his pregnant wife.

• The Rangers like what they are seeing in Shin-Soo Choo.

• The Oakland A's are trying some new batting cages.

• Albert Pujols is feeling awesome, writes Mike DiGiovanna.

NL East

• Braves hitting coach Greg Walker likes the work being put in by B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla.

• Ross Detwiler has added a cutter, writes Adam Kilgore.

NL Central

• Jean Segura wants to avoid the regression that he had through last season.

• The Chicago Cubs’ Albert Almora is a born leader, writes Gordon Wittenmyer.

• Starlin Castro reminisced about Derek Jeter.

• The Cincinnati Reds camp has a different feel under Bryan Price.

• There are no plans to limit the innings of Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha.

• The Pittsburgh Pirates’ outfield is back in the swing of things.

NL West

• Robbie Erlin hopes to pick up where he left off, writes Tyler Emerick.

• Moving past 2013 is a key for Miguel Montero.

• Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, one of baseball’s best defenders last season, is back for more, Patrick Saunders writes.

• Hunter Pence eats well.

• Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum are finding their rhythm, writes Henry Schulman.

Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Braves spending spree not over?
February, 23, 2014
FEB 23
By AJ Mass |
You may not have noticed, but the Atlanta Braves have been big spenders this offseason, though instead of signing any big-name free agents, they've focused on locking up their own young talent to multi-year contracts. So far, they've committed to $280.7 million to five players: Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Craig Kimbrel, Andrelton Simmons and Julio Teheran.

However, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that there might yet be a free agent out there the Braves are still considering adding to the payroll. O'Brien says the Braves have "scouted 23-yr-old Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz multiple times" and like him at the right price.

In the past, O'Brien writes, he'd have been skeptical about the Braves getting involved in a bidding war with teams like the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies -- just a few of the teams that have also expressed interest in Diaz -- but "you never know" given the way the team has been open to sepndig money lately.

Diaz is a shortstop, so with the Simmons deal now in place, obviously that's not where he'd play for Atlanta. However, scouting reports say he could be shifted to either second or third base. If the Braves were to sign Diaz, they would likely send him to Triple-A to get used to playing second base with an eye towards eventually taking over for Dan Uggla at the position.
Tags:Andrelton Simmons, Aledmys Diaz, Dan Uggla
Position battle: Indians 3B
February, 23, 2014
FEB 23
By AJ Mass |
With the emergence of Yan Gomes behind the plate, the Cleveland Indians are now faced with the problem of finding a spot in the lineup on an everyday basis for Carlos Santana. The question the team is asking this spring is whether or not that spot is at third base.

The candidates:

Carlos Santana, age 27, bats both
Lonnie Chisenhall, age 25, bats left

Santana: He's had over 600 plate appearances in each of the last three seasons and finished 15th in American League MVP voting last season. However, that was primarily as a catcher and he's never really played third base before giving the position a try this winter in the Dominican Republic.

Chisenhall: He's had chances at third base for the Indians in each of the last three seasons, but while he hits just fine at Triple-A (.390 in 27 games during a mid-season demotion in 2013) his bat has slumbered quite a bit at the big-league level (.225 in 94 games with Cleveland last season).

Latest update: Chisenhall tells the Akron Beacon Journal that he's used to being involved in a positional battle. "It's really no different than the last three years. I'm always going up against somebody for the job. This time because it's Carlos, maybe people are just paying more attention. But it's really no different to me... I know what I have to do and it really doesn't have anything to do with Carlos."

Current leader: Santana. He's a lock to make the roster, and while he could end up being used behind the plate, at first base or as the DH, Chisenhall does have a minor-league option remaining. However, manager Terry Francona has not yet ruled out the possibility of Chisenhall being his starter. "We've told them both they have to win the job out of spring training. Nothing is going to be handed to them."
Tags:Lonnie Chisenhall, Carlos Santana, MLB position battle
Will Cruz be a distraction for O's?
February, 23, 2014
FEB 23
By AJ Mass |
Outfielder Nelson Cruz is now a member of the Baltimore Orioles, and should provide the team with plenty of needed pop at the plate. As's Jayson Stark notes, he's still one of the premier power hitters in the game.

"Cruz, who has spent the last eight seasons with the Rangers, is one of seven right-handed hitters in baseball who have hit at least 20 home runs in each of the last five seasons. The others are Miguel Cabrera, Alfonso Soriano, Matt Holliday, Mike Napoli, Mark Reynolds and Hunter Pence," writes Stark.

However, there are concerns that adding Cruz to the Orioles clubhouse might be more trouble than its worth. As Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun writes, "the signing of a player with Cruz's baggage will not come without some risk to the Orioles' greatly improved image" and he points to the well-documented anti-steroid positions of right fielder Nick Markakis and first baseman Chris Davis as a potential issue.

However, for the moment at least, everyone appears to be downplaying any perceived conflict. "Everybody has got their own views and their own ways of looking at things," Markakis said. "But ultimately when we we are all under one roof, we are a team. So we are going to welcome him just like anyone else."
Tags:Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis, Chris Davis
Texas likely to pass on Santana
February, 23, 2014
FEB 23
By AJ Mass |
According to Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, there are three teams that are "very interested" in free agent pitcher Ervin Santana. They are the Baltimore Orioles, the Texas Rangers and an unnamed team from the National League West.

However, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News disagrees, saying he's heard that the Rangers are not, in fact, pursuing Santana at this time. There had been some thought that Texas might need another pitcher to start the season, given the concern surrounding Matt Harrison's need for an MRI on his back.

Grant believes that "providing Harrison gets a good report from Dr. Drew Dossett on Monday, I think he can still effectively open the season as part of the rotation. Because of an off day on the season's fourth day, the Rangers could skip a spot in the rotation once and not use a fifth starter until the eighth game (on the ninth day) of the season.

"It would give them the ability to put Harrison on the DL to start the season, backdate it a week and still activate him in time to make the April 8 start at Boston."
Tags:Matt Harrison, Ervin Santana
Reds ready to run
February, 23, 2014
FEB 23
By AJ Mass |
The Cincinnati Reds weren't exactly known for their speed last season. Take away Shin-Soo Choo's 20 steals and Billy Hamilton's pinch-running exploits in September, and you've got a team that stole just 34 bases in 2013. New manager Bryan Price certainly took note of this fact and aims to change it in 2014.'s Jerry Crasnick writes that Price expects the Reds to "take more chances" in the baserunning department this season. "Price plans to open things up in the Cactus League and encourage his players to run when they have the opportunity," Crasnick says.

"He understands the potential downside of running into too many outs during the regular season -- particularly at Great America Ball Park, where home runs abound. But he thinks the Reds have the personnel on the roster to strike a better balance. At the very least, the new approach could help the Reds manufacture a few more runs on the road."

"I know that we need to be able to create scoring opportunities, especially in that bottom third of our lineup," Price said. "Being station to station didn't give us as many opportunities to score as I would have liked. We have to be somewhat creative."

Two players that Price singled out as candidates to improve on their stolen base totals this season are Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier. As John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer notes, Cozart stole 30 bases in 34 attempts in Triple-A in 2010, but did not attempt a steal last year.

"We've got a couple guys there in Frazier in Cozart who are capable base-stealers who simply need to seize the opportunity," Price said. "If we get into a situation where a pitcher is consistently slow to the plate, we need to create those scoring opportunities by getting more guys in scoring position."
Tags:Cincinnati Reds, Billy Hamilton, Todd Frazier, Zack Cosart
Correia wants to stay in Twin Cities
February, 22, 2014
FEB 22
By Doug Mittler |
Minnesota appears to be a popular place to play, even if the early-season games are staged in chilly temperatures and the Twins have won just 66 games each of the last two years.

Earlier this week, outfielder Josh Willingham, who is set a complete a three-year, $21 million deal with the Twins, said he would like to finish his career in Minnesota. The Twins, however, have yet to initiate any talk on an extension, Willingham’s agent told Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.

Now right-hander Kevin Correia, who enters the back end of a two-year, $10 million deal, tells Berardino he would be open to an extension but has not been approached from the front office. The 33-year-old Correia had a 4.18 ERA, but it represented the third straight year that the number declined, and threw 185.1 innings, the second highest total of his career.

Like Willingham, there is no real incentive to act on an extension for Correia right now. Correia could be trade bait in July and will be more expendable if youngsters Kyle Gibson, Alex Meyer and Trevor May develop as hoped.
O's prefer Cruz over Morales?
February, 22, 2014
FEB 22
By Doug Mittler |
After a relatively quiet few months, the Baltimore Orioles stepped up the pace this week, agreeing to a four-year, $50 million deal with righthander Ubaldo Jimenez and reportedly intensifying the efforts to land a power bat.

The buzz Friday had the Orioles making a serious pitch to sign Kendrys Morales, according to the Baltimore Sun. But Roch Kubatko of tweeted Friday night that a deal for Morales was a “definite no.”

The Orioles may now have shifted their attention to Nelson Cruz, the other top-tier free agent hitter still left on the market. Jon Heyman of reports Saturday that Cruz is close to a deal with Baltimore, although some issues remain.

Cruz, who would fit in nicely as the DH in Baltimore, had 27 home runs with 76 RBI in a season that was shortened by a 50-game suspension for his part in the Biogenesis scandal.

If Cruz does land in Baltimore, it could the likelihood that Morales ends up returning to the Mariners, who made a qualifying offer to the first baseman last fall. Another option is the Pirates, who could use an upgrade over Gaby Sanchez.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Kendrys Morales, Nelson Cruz
Cards' options with Carlos Martinez
February, 22, 2014
FEB 22
By Doug Mittler |

Keeping a close watch over a pitcher’s workload is an important job of every manager and front office, and the St. Louis Cardinals are no different, especially since that franchise has an abundance of talented young arms.

General manager John Mozeliak said Friday the team has no plan to place an innings limit on Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha, both of whom could start the season in the rotation, and will “improvise if there are signs of fatigue,” writes Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch.

But Goold says the Cardinals will likely be far more cautious with 22-year-old Carlos Martinez, who will compete for a spot in the rotation after performing well in an eighth-inning relief role last October. Martinez was a starter in the minor leagues last season before being used primarily in relief upon his promotion.

The Cardinals seem intent on choosing a role for Martinez and avoid shifting him between the rotation and a relief role. There is a chance Martinez could begin the season in Triple-A in order to build up arm strength, which could mean eighth inning save opportunities for Kevin Siegrist.
Tags:St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Martinez
Playing it safe with Matt Kemp
February, 22, 2014
FEB 22
By Doug Mittler |
It appears more and more likely that Matt Kemp will miss the start of the season for the Los Angeles Dodgers following ankle surgery.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly all but conceded the point on Friday, saying he was “not hopeful” the outfielder will play in Australia against the Diamondbacks on March 22, a full week earlier than the rest of MLB gets underway.

Kemp hasn't run outdoors since the surgery over the winter and is scheduled to undergo an MRI next week. The 29-year-old Kemp was limited to 73 games last year due to a host of injuries and had a batting line of .270/.328/.395 with six home runs.

The Dodgers have no real incentive to rush Kemp, especially since they still have Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier and Yasiel Puig in the outfield. The lingering injury to Kemp also explains why the Dodgers, who were looking for another starting pitcher over the winter, are reluctant to deal from their outfield surplus.
Tags:Matt Kemp
Mets want Drew only at a discount
February, 22, 2014
FEB 22
By Doug Mittler |
Instead of being in a big league camp right now, Stephen Drew is working out at the new Scott Boras training facility in North Miami later as the free agent shortstop awaits his destination for 2014.

The New York Mets, currently set to go with the light-hitting Ruben Tejada at shortstop, may be the most logical fit. While the Mets may be on the radar, Jon Heyman of reports the Mets floated a salary close to the range of the $9.5 million Drew made last year.

That offer would have little chance, especially since Drew turned down a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Red Sox last winter. But the Mets do have one big reason to keep the lines of communications open. They wouldn’t lose a first-round pick since their choice is protected as one of the bottom 10 finishers in 2013.

The speculation of a possible return to Boston surfaced last weekend once Ryan Dempster announced he will not pitch in 2014, forfeiting the $13.25 million he was due in the final year of his pact with the Red Sox. But Gordon Edes of, however, says Dempster informed the Red Sox of his intentions two weeks ago, so any course of action on Drew did not dramatically change last weekend. As of now, Boston seems content to go with rookie Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Will Middlebrooks at third base.

As for other possible suitors, Matthew Cerrone of SNY's Mets Blog suggested the suggests the Astros and Twins.
Tags:Stephen Drew
Orioles raising efforts to sign Morales?
February, 21, 2014
FEB 21
By Joe Kaiser |
According to a report on Friday, the Baltimore Orioles have intensified their efforts to sign free agent 1B/DH Kendrys Morales in recent days.

Dan Connolly of the The Baltimore Sun writes that the team's pursuit has increased, according to a source, due to two developments.

"One, the Orioles had been hesitant to forfeit their first-round pick –- 17th overall -– to sign Morales, but they instead forfeited it when agreeing to a four-year deal with Jimenez," Connelly wrote. "If they were to sign Morales now, the Orioles would surrender their second-rounder, roughly the 55th selection overall in 2014, which obviously is not as coveted as a first-round (or supplemental) pick.

"Secondly, a shorter deal with an opt-out for Morales is potentially available for the Orioles now. Previously it was thought that the 30-year-old Morales was seeking a four- or five-year deal only, but now it appears that a two-year deal with an opt out after the first season could be in play."

Seattle and Pittsburgh are two of the other teams that have long been rumored to be interested in Morales, but as we creep closer to start of Spring Training games this could very well come down to which team is willing to give the veteran slugger the most guaranteed money.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Kendrys Morales, MLB, Insider
M's outfield coming into focus?
February, 21, 2014
FEB 21
By Joe Kaiser |
Seattle's three outfield spots were among the big questions for the club heading into Spring, but on Friday Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon revealed which players have a shot to play at each of the positions.

Though no official decisions have been made -- after all, it's only Feb. 21 -- Larry Stone of the Seattle Times writes that McClendon would like Corey Hart in right field, and sees Dustin Ackley as more of a left fielder than center fielder. As Stone mentions, 50 of Ackley's 59 games in the outfield last season came in center, so this is a shift from the past.

So if Ackley's in left and Hart in right, the question, then, is who patrols center in the wake of last week's news that Franklin Gutierrez won't play in 2014.

The favorite is probably Michael Saunders, who has spent the majority of his career in right field, however youngsters Abraham Almonte, Xavier Avery and Stefen Romero could also stand a chance to win the spot with a big spring.

As you know, Seattle has also been one of the main teams in the mix for free agent corner outfielder Nelson Cruz, and if Cruz signs with the M's it'll probably cause the team to reconsider using Ackley in center while Cruz and Hart man the two corners.
Tags:Seattle Mariners, Corey Hart, Nelson Cruz, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, MLB, Insider
Orioles still in play for Santana?
February, 21, 2014
FEB 21
By Joe Kaiser |
When Baltimore inked Ubaldo Jimenez to a four-year, $50 million deal earlier this week, the attention immediately shifted to whether the Orioles might still be in play for a bat like Kendrys Morales or Nelson Cruz.

But could the O's instead be going after the other top arm remaining on the market, Ervin Santana?

Jon Heyman of writes Friday that the club has maintained a dialogue with Santana, and may view the next two years as their chance to make a strong push towards the World Series.

"The Orioles quite obviously see a nice two-year window to win, with top slugger Chris Davis and superb catcher Matt Wieters due to become free agents after 2015, and seemingly little chance to extend those players in that window," he writes.

It would be a shocking move for the O's to land both Jimenez and Santana, but it'd also serve as an immediate upgrade to Baltimore's long-standing pitching woes in the rotation.

Seattle could be the Orioles' main competition for all three free agents -- Santana, Cruz and Morales -- and Heyman reports that Toronto, Colorado, Cleveland and Kansas City are among the other teams known to have shown interest in Santana.
Tags:Baltimore Orioles, Ervin Santana, MLB, Insider
Position battle: Rockies left field
February, 21, 2014
FEB 21
By Joe Kaiser |
The Colorado Rockies enter spring training with a pretty good sense of their starter at every position with the exception of one -- left field. In the words of Rockies' longtime beat writer Troy Renck of The Denver Post, "the competition in left field will be one of the best storylines this spring."
The candidates:
Corey Dickerson, age 24, Bats: left
Drew Stubbs, age 29, Bats: right
Charlie Blackmon, age 27, Bats: left
Stubbs: The veteran of the bunch, Stubbs has the most plate appearances under his belt, and has proven over the course of his career to strike out far too often for a prototypical leadoff man. However, of the three he's the one most likely to steal a base.

Blackmon: He is less of a base-stealing threat than Stubbs, but is versatile in the field and a better contact hitter. He's also coming off a season where, in 82 big league games with Colorado, he batted .309 with 6 HR and an .803 OPS.

Dickerson: At 24, the left-handed hitter is the youngest and most intriguing of the three options. He stung the ball in Triple-A Colorado Springs last season (.317 with 11 HR and a 1.046 OPS) and held his own in 194 at bats with the Rockies upon getting his first call to the bigs.

Latest update: Ideally, the Rockies would like one of the three to separate themselves as a player capable not only of covering ground in Coors Field's cavernous left field, but also as a table-setter who can replace Dexter Fowler at the leadoff spot.

Current leader: Here's ESPN Insider Jim Bowden, who explains why Dickerson is the leader -- but hardly a lock -- to win the job.

Jim Bowden
The LF job is Dickerson's to lose
"Over the winter, the Rockies surprised everyone by announcing Gold Glove left fielder Carlos Gonzalez was moving to center field. The move probably hurts the team defensively in both spots. Plus, considering Gonzalez’s injury history, left field probably gives him a better chance to stay healthy. With CarGo in center, left field is Dickerson's to lose. However, the 24-year-old has some competition, as the Rockies also like Charlie Blackmon and Brandon Barnes. The Rockies also dealt for Drew Stubbs, who is probably the best defensive outfielder on the team and a player capable of 25-30 home runs, especially at Coors Field. Dickerson’s biggest problem is his strikeout rates and low OBP, problems even Coors Field can’t hide. If Dickerson fails, Gonzalez moves back to left and Stubbs takes over center field."
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